Cacho de Cabra

Cacho de Cabra


Scientific Classification

Capsicum Annuum var. Lungum

Heat rating in Scovilles:

1000 – 5000

Cacho de Cabra, sometimes simply called Goat’s Horn Chile, is a medium-spicy pepper that is native to Chile. In Spanish “Cacho de Cabra” means goat horn, a reference to the pepper’s shape.

The native people of Chile, the Mapuche, have been cultivating and growing peppers in the Santiago region for centuries. Because of its name, some assume that Chile must have something to do with Chile peppers. The country’s name actually comes the Mapuche word “chilli”, which means “where the lands end”–a reference to Chile’s long stretches of coast.

Merkén (or merquén) is a traditional condiment in Mapuche cuisine in Chile. Merkén is made of Cacho de Cabra chile peppers. The peppers are dried naturally in the sun, then smoked over a wood fire, and ground in a process that the Mapuche invented many years ago. This gives the pepper a rich smoky flavor. It is then sometimes mixed with toasted coriander and salt. Commercially, merkén pepper with only an addition of salt is known as “natural merken” (merkén natural), while “special merkén” (merkén especial) contains coriander seeds. The composition of special merkén is about 70% chili, 20% salt, and 10% coriander seed.

Aside from its distinct smoke flavor, the spice also has a mild bite due to the moderate spiciness of the Cacho de Cabra pepper. In recent years in Chile, merkén has gained a lot of popularity and is one of the most popular additions to any meal. It is not uncommon for a Chilean family to keep a container of merkén on the table, right next to the salt and pepper. The spice is added to any dish that could benefit from its unique spicy and smoky flavor, usually to the individual’s taste. Cacho de Cabra may not be the hottest of all hot peppers, but due to the popularity of merkén, it is undoubtedly one of the most commonly found chilli peppers in this South American country.

Shape: This red pepper is long and pointed, similar in shape to the goat horns from which it gets its name. The general shape is reminiscent of a jalapeno pepper, though somewhat more elongated. Occasionally the pepper’s body will twist around, creating curls.

Taste: When made into merkén, Cacho de Cabra has a warm, smoky flavor. When eaten fresh, the pepper is aromatic and has a medium spiciness.

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